Quite a bit has been written on the early days of Piha, but most is centred around 'the village' I thought I would put on paper, my recollections of 'our' piece of Piha
My introduction to Piha, so I'm told, was camping on the Domain over Xmas 1940. I was 6 months old then. Mum and Dad had camped there a year or two previously, and a year or two after. Dad had an affinity with Piha,he had been going out there since his late teens
No fancy ablution blocks then, just a communal toilet, with one tap for water. This scenario was the same all over NZ at the time, and OSH would have had a Heart Attack on the spot. Funny thing, no one ever got sick from these conditions!
Sometime between 1940 and 1945 Dad built our bach on the right hand side at the end of Glenesk Road. During the war, building materials were hard to get, and it took a while to complete.The outside was clad in fibrolite, and inside was lined with pinex. It was sited well back from the road on a sloping section...to get the view back down the road...and everything had to be carried up a zig zag track thru the bush. Even the wood-burner stove would have to go up the same way. When finished, it consisted of a reasonable size lounge-dining room, two smallish bedrooms, and a small kichen. In later years the kitchen was enlarged with a small alcove for dining. In the spring, looking back down the road, we had a great view of a flowering Rata in the bush. It was a big orange blob and flowered for quite a while
Of course there was no power then, and the place was wired for 12volt lights. The battery and the petrol charger were under the bach, where there was a biggish storeroom. Most of the time tho, we relied on kerosene lamps, which seemed to give off enuff light. Most of the cooking was done on primus's The stove was only used when we were there for a longer period . When it was used, Dad used to make bread (He had been a baker previously) and we all looked forward to that We had the standard corrogated iron tank on a stand for rain water off the roof
As a family, we went out there for long weekends and holidays, but Dad and I often went out for weekends. Those memories I will never forget
In the early 50s, we had a driveway bulldozed up the left side of the section, around the back of the batch, and down, joining in to the upcoming one After that our first stop on a Friday night on our way to Piha was at the brick and tile works in St Georges Rd Avondale There Dad would load the trailer with charred dregs from the kiln, and later spread them out on the new drive. It took a while, but he got it done and I dont recall the car ever getting stuck Sure was easier unloading our gear at the back door........well the only door actually
Where the section left the road, there was a small flat area and Dad had that in lawn. In the centre there was a garden that was his pride and joy. There were a lot of fuchias, and he also planted annuals. When it got dry, we would tie a rope on the handle of a bucket, go across the road and drop it over the bank into the creek, When full we would pull it up and go water the plants. Rather a tedious job but we enjoyed it. Behind the garden, up against the bank was a small tin shed. This is where Dad kept the lawn mower, hand of course....... and his gardening tools. In all our years there I dont remember the shed ever being broken in to
On the other side of us was a vacant scrub section, then a small place where a Mr & Mrs Johnstone lived. Next to them lived 2 elderly sisters, a Mrs Ansell and her sister Mary. Mrs Ansell had crook legs and never ventured far from the house. Mary used to walk down to the store....Poples, then Murrays (I went to Avondale College with one of the Murray girls) and get their supplies. Mrs Ansell did her best with a garden behind the house, but the clay soil wasnt kind. Never the less the cake tins always had something in them, and to a young lad that was the main thing. They had a Dachsund called Bruce. We became good friends and I was allowed to take him for walks in the bush and to the creek.
Next to them, and right at the road end, a Mr Gubb had a bach. He seldom visited, but I rememebr going inside a couple of times with Dad. As the place was seldom used, it had that 'odour' to it. On his boundary the track to the waterfall started.
Across from us lived an elderly couple, Mr & Mrs Stone. A nicer couple would be hard to meet. They were both small people and lived in a 2 roomed shack down by the creek There was a plank across the creek to get to the other side. Over there they had a small cowshed where they hand milked up to 7 cows. That was my first introduction to dairy farming, an occupation I followed for many years, and where I had my first taste of 'real' cream. This was obtained via a hand seperator. An unusual number of floods in a short time forced them to build a small house on higher ground, as well as a decent bridge. When feed for the cows was short, they let them out on the road and into the bush. One of the cows had a cow bell around her neck, so they always knew where the cows were. They kept together. In the spring/summer, the Stones grew veges around their house. These they sold from a stall at the gate to people coming up the road They were the only people up the road that had the phone on. A single wire provided the service, and if it came down, they had to fix it, The exchange in the store was open twice a day!! They had a draught type horse called dobbin that they let me ride. I thought I was made I even made a couple of small jumps for us to go over. In the early 50s the Stones moved into Pt Chevalier, and I often wondered how they settled
There were very few batch's on Glenesk Rd in those days. 3 or 4 up on the right where the road started. Remember once scrub fires got pretty close to the back of them. Then where the road had a slight bend to the right, there were places either side. On the left Mr & Mrs Lane had a batch. They were regular visitors, and we often joined them for a cuppa and a chat. Not sure whose the place on the right was, but recall my sister went to school with one of the children. Just past the Lanes' a track went in to climb the hill behind. In those days, no signs, and if you didnt know it was there, you missed it. Great view from the top.
On the left at the road end a short track led down to the junction of the 2 creeks. I spent many hours playing here Eeling, building small rock dams, and there was even a couple of pools where a small fella could completely submerge. On the other side of the creek a track led up a slight bank At the top of the bank a track branched off to the right. This followed the creek up and ended at a clearing Johnny Byers had made. You then crossed a bridge and joined the track to the waterfall. I walked the waterfall track many times. Sometimes with others, sometimes alone, Dad took my sister and I up once, and we climbed up the left side of the waterfall and along the creek bed a short way at the top. We were stopped going further by timber from the old dam. Coming back down the waterfall was a bit scary. At one time I recall a bigish grey van with a red cross on the side go past to the road end. I was told later that someone had found a person on the side of the track suffering from drinking meths. I don't know if the person was alive or dead.
If you followed the track straight ahead over the creek you eventually came out on the Anawhata Rd. I did this track more than once. Johnny Byers (An Auckland Centennial Park Ranger) did a lot of work in this area. His wasn't a job, it was a passion. During the holidays when we saw his landrover coming up the road. I would rush down in the hope his son Peter was with him. We were about the same age and often played together. There was another Ranger, Porky Neil or Oneil He was single and lived in the bush just before our place. There were a few times someone lit a fire at the top of Lion Rock on New Years eve, and Porky had to climb up and put it out. At the road end on the left, was a massive puriri tree. When the berries were ripe, it was alive with Kereru There was always a morepork or 2 calling out at night
Sometimes in the summer they would show films in the hall on a Saturday night. Dad and I often walked down to a show. It didnt matter what was on, we enjoyed the walk and the show
In those days, petrol was rationed, hence all the walking. It didn't bother us, and I'm sure I have Piha to thank for my life long interest in camping, the outdoors, and walking.
We often walked down to the beach for a swim too. Down the road, across the Domain, over the walk bridge by the lagoon and thru the dunes to the beach. When smaller we used to swim in the lagoon and the water was always a bit warmer than the sea. I enjoyed the surf and spent many happy hours in it. Sometimes we would go over the hill and around to the Gap. Once when walking along the beach coming back, a rogue wave knocked me over and Dad had to rush in to the water and grab me.
We had 2 lots of family friends who had bach's at Piha too. The Palmers had a converted garage just about opposite where Rayner Road branched off, then the Hintons had a place a bit further down on the right. Dads sister and brother in law had a place at the top of the hill on the way to the Radar Station. It had a pristine flat section with great views out to sea. In my eyes, it didnt come anywhere near close to comparing with what we had on our doorstep
The road out from Waiatarua was all metal. To start with I was car sick going both ways but it never put me off. I did grow out of it. In the early days you could see the Nihotapu Dam away to the right, but as the bush grew, you lost sight of it. In the spring, the clematis flowering through the bush was a sight to behold
I remember the old families, The Bevins, the Mercers, The Pearces, The Ushers, and not forgetting the Ketterers
Sometimes we would go down to Ketterers for an ice cream. Often we would meet their muscovy ducks waddling down the road to the creek. They went in by the swing bridge just below the shop. Past Ketterers over the rise and on the left was where the Byers lived. There was a big swing bridge over to the house. Vehicle access was via the side road just a bit further down. Under the swing bridge they used to grow veges for sale.
I still have Dads old photos of the Mill and various parts of the tramway, as well as a copy of the subdivision plan
We had a radio that worked off a 12 volt battery that was turned on 'sometimes'
There were no TVs, Computers, Play Stations, or Cell Phones, for which I am truly thankful. I made my own fun, and all the facillities were there for me to do it with, free of charge!!!
In 1955 I left school and went to work on a dairy farm at Matamata, thereby ending my regular contact with Piha. In the 70s, I returned to outer Auckland to live for a while, and during that period, made several trips out to Piha. In 1956 Dad swapped the bach for a small farm up by Whangarei. The new owners added 2 rooms on the front, and built a small shed down by the road from which they sold ice creams etc.
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